Auto sales see big gains in May

DETROIT (AP) — Price cuts at Nissan and strong demand for pickup trucks helped U.S. auto sales rebound in May after a slight dip in April.

General Motors reported its strongest monthly sales since September of 2008. Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota also reported increases. Nissan Motor Co. notched its highest May sales ever after cutting prices on seven popular models early in the month.

Only Volkswagen said sales fell compared with May of last year.

The strong sales are another sign that auto sales will continue to boost the U.S. economy, as consumers replace aging vehicles and businesses invest in trucks as they gain confidence.

Builders are buying pickup trucks at a rapid pace as home construction continues to rebound. Ford Motor Co. said sales of its F-Series pickup — the nation’s best-selling vehicle — hit 71,604, their highest sales since March 2007. Chrysler Group said Ram pickup sales jumped 22 percent from last May to almost 32,000. Chevy Silverado sales rose 25 percent to more than 43,000.

Analysts expected a strong May for the industry after a slightly disappointed April. They forecast a 7 percent increase over May 2012 to around 1.4 million vehicles, putting the industry back on pace for full-year sales of more than 15 million.

In April, the annualized rate dropped below 15 million for the first time in six months, causing some concern that the industry’s recovery could be slowing.

“This quick rebound is just another example of how the auto industry is currently one of the most resilient areas of the overall economy,” said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at car-shopping site Edmunds.com.

Chrysler even predicted that May sales would hit an annual rate of 15.5 million.

Truck sales, combined with increases in other vehicles, show that the economic recovery is sticking, said Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of sales.

“These are all powerful signs that the gradual recovery in the economy is becoming more broad-based,” he said in a statement.

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